California Wine Country for Foodies
If you’re a gourmand, Napa is a dream come true. Oodles of specialty food stores, wineries, farms, and culinary institutes are here to pique your senses. There’s a farmers’ market almost every day of the week. Food and wine pairings are endless. And to top it all off, you have your choice of some of the world’s best restaurants, run by some of the world’s best chefs. So loosen your belt—we’re going on a culinary tour of Napa Valley.
And for a deeper dive into California wine country, check out Frommer’s Napa and Sonoma day by day.
This small family-owned winery (4310 Silverado Trail, Calistoga) produces no more than 2,500 cases of wine each year, and even fewer cases of its acclaimed olive oil, which is so distinctive that it has its own tasting notes. At $34 per bottle, the expertly blended extract of Italian, Spanish, and Mexican olives isn’t cheap, though you can taste it for free. Reservations recommended.
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena
The West Coast arm of the New York heavyweight of food education is an imposing stone chateau (2555 Hwy. 29, St. Helena) to which wannabe chefs flock to sharpen their skills. But you don’t have to be an enrolled student to watch cooking demos, marvel over displays of ancient food-making artifacts, and shop at an extensive marketplace that stocks every kind of specialty ingredient, cooking tool, and utensil you can imagine—the cookbooks alone would take several lifetimes to work your way through. There’s also a wonderful restaurant on site.
Sample, sample, sample at this French-inspired purveyor of epicurean delights (1375 Main St., St. Helena). Big, copper olive-oil dispensers line the walls, so try mixing your own—or shop for beautiful kitchenware from Provence.
The gourmet handmade confections here (1367 Main St., St. Helena) cost a pretty penny—but to a true palate, they’re worth the price. Try the fan-shaped Thai ginger tidbit or the brown-butter ganache.
Long Meadow Ranch
This innovative organic farming operation (738 Main St., St. Helena) is a winery known for its reds—but it’s also an environmentally responsible ranch that, depending on season and supply, provides Napa’s best restaurants with extra-virgin olive oil, eggs, and heirloom fruits and vegetables. To experience more than just the wine flights, consider booking the chef’s table experience (reservations required), which gets you a garden tour and a three-course meal plucked from the land. If you want to come back when you’ve got the morning and afternoon free, opt for the Mayacamas Estate experience (reservations required) for a visit to the home ranch, the wine cave, and the valley’s oldest olive orchards (planted in the 1870s) before your meal.
Dean & Deluca
California’s only D&D outpost (607 St. Helena Hwy.) stocks fresh local produce, cheeses, and a fantastic array of international food products and gifts, plus 1,400 California wines. There’s an espresso bar too, in case you need a pick-me-up.
Round Pond Estate
If you don’t have time for Long Meadow’s tour, make an appointment at Round Pond (886 Rutherford Rd., Napa), which also makes artisan olive oil and premium red wine. During the 30-minute Splash and Dash tasting, you’ll sample olive oils, red-wine vinegars, and artisan syrups. Opt for Round Pond’s full tour and you’ll see the olive orchards, learn about harvesting techniques and oil-extraction processes, and taste Italian and Spanish olive oil varieties paired with estate-grown vegetables while an expert teaches you about the oils’ many culinary uses.
Oakville Grocery or The French Laundry
Napa’s two true foodie options for lunch are on opposite ends of the fanciness scale. The 130-year-old, recently renovated Oakville Grocery (7856 St. Helena Hwy.) is a casual, crowded little store selling gourmet foodstuffs, much of them locally made and available for sampling. A nice wine selection can be found in the back. Buy ready-made sandwiches and entrees, and at the espresso bar, pick up coffee drinks to go. There’s an ice cream counter, too.
The second option: The French Laundry (6640 Washington St., Yountville), a culinary experience that should be on every food lover’s bucket list. Reservations are required and should be made far in advance. But even if you can’t get a table, wander through chef Thomas Keller’s expansive herb garden across the street.
Oxbow Public Market
Finish the day by sampling the best in local wines and artisanal foods. A venerable farmers’ market that’s open daily, Oxbow (610/644 First St.) sits in the heart of downtown Napa. Dessert sounding good right about now? Go for one of the spiced ice creams at Three Twins.
Frommer's Napa and Sonoma Day By Day
For a fuller picture of all that California wine country has to offer, pick up a copy of Frommer’s Napa and Sonoma day by day. Inside you’ll find scores of full-color maps and photos, self-guided tours to suit every interest and schedule, and our picks for the region’s best wineries, hotels, restaurants, and shops—in short, everything you need to make the most of your time in Napa and Sonoma.